16 Mar 13

By Beth Foote

I’m covering the blog this week as Randy recovers from his recent whirlwind of school presentations. Randy will be back next week!

Recently, I was having a bad day at work. It was one of those terribly busy days when everything seemed to be taking twice as long to get done as it should have. So when my cell phone started buzzing on my desk, I glanced at the unfamiliar number on the caller ID and then looked back at my screen, letting the call go to voicemail.

I was curious, though; I looked up the area code and saw that it was from Kentucky. I don’t know anyone in Kentucky, but whoever called me from there had left me a message. Soon the curiosity was great enough that I took a break from the spreadsheet I was working on and called up my voicemail.

A woman’s friendly Southern-accented voice greeted me. “Hi, this is Mary Ann calling on behalf of Doctors Without Borders. We just really wanted to say thank you so much for joining our field monthly giving program and we wanted to say welcome to the team.” She went on to tell me that I would receive a welcome kit in the mail in a few weeks and that I would be invited to special events and conference calls where they would talk more about their work. She ended with, “We thank you so much for your commitment.”

You see, part of my 2013 resolution was to do more things that focused outside of myself and focused more on helping others. It’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day trials and tribulations of one’s own life–I felt like I needed to get out of my own head a little more and get some perspective, and to “pay it forward.” In addition to the work I already do with 2020 Vision Quest, I also decided to become a regular donor (albeit a small one) to Doctors Without Borders.

The concept of Doctors Without Borders (or Medecins Sans Frontieres, commonly shortened to MSF) completely floors me. Their mission is to provide medical aid “to those most in need regardless of their race, religion, or political affiliation,” to quote the website. They are a completely neutral humanitarian organization. They are not affiliated with any religious or political group. They purposely do not accept gifts from corporations that come into direct conflict with their mission, so as to retain their independent status. 90% of their gifts come from private donors.

Wherever there are epidemics, malnutrition, natural disasters, or those excluded from healthcare, MSF will most often be there too. They were in Thailand after the 2004 tsunami, Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, and Japan after the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. They have set up projects in the most dangerous and war-torn places in the world, such as South Sudan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Syria. They help people who need it most, regardless of who has fought against whom.

In the current climate of religious and political divisiveness in this country (the US), I find it very refreshing and heartening to remember humanitarian organizations like this exist for the sole purpose of helping people in need simply because we’re all people together on this planet and it’s the right thing to do. Making the world a better place benefits us all.

Nick Lawson, MSF-USA’s Director of Field Human Resources said it best in a recent newsletter I received:

“I think medical professionals like to work with MSF because it takes them back to the fundamental essence of the medical act and the Hippocratic oath. They can use their skills to do excellent work that’s not about the HMO or the legal environment. It’s about doing the very best you can as a human being to benefit another human being. That’s the essence of MSF.”

Further demonstrating their commitment to their mission, MSF puts 86% of their donations back into their programs and services, with 12.7% going towards fundraising and just 1.3% going towards management and other general expenses. For me, these statistics feel like an assurance that a donation to them will be used to the most direct benefit possible of people in need.

It humbles me to think about the work of charity organizations, who help others with no expectation of compensation. It reminds me that enriching someone else’s life is a reward unto itself. It puts things into perspective and encourages me not to dwell too much on what I perceive as difficulties in my own life.

Perhaps, too, this perspective will give me courage to try things I might not have before. As the 2020 Vision Quest mission states: ”Achieve a vision beyond your sight.” Here’s to having the courage to try to make a difference!

For more information about Doctors Without Borders / Medecins Sans Frontieres, please visit their website:


19 Nov 12

By Beth Foote

A full house at Peak Potential 2012!

A full house at Peak Potential 2012!

On Saturday night we held our 3rd annual Peak Potential Charity Dinner and Auction. This year we had a record turnout of 136 in attendance, far greater than last year, and with over $10,000 worth of donated items for our charity auction. It was a successful event all around, our best yet.

However, the day began on a very somber note. All of the 2020 Vision Quest staff members received an email around noon from Randy telling us that his father had passed away in the small hours of the morning after a long illness. Randy said that the event was still on, and that it would be ok–the thing he needed most from us was our friendship and support. Together, we would get through the day and make the event a success.

Our hearts went out to Randy and Tracy. Given this earthshaking news, I didn’t know what to expect going into the evening. Last year, Peak Potential was a fun and festive night, full of laughter and lightheartedness. I wondered, how would this year be, with Randy and Tracy facing such a difficult burden?

Randy talks with his fraternity brothers from UNH.

Randy talks with his fraternity brothers from UNH.

I needn’t have worried. Randy and Tracy were buoyed up by the outpouring of support from everyone there. No doubt things were difficult for them, but the atmosphere of the evening was fun, warm, and loving. Randy was greeted by person after person offering good wishes and support. I was floored by the generosity of so many of the patrons of the event, bidding on the array of auction items and urging others to do the same. The spirit of the event was jovial and joyful, and together, our purpose was clear–we were all there to celebrate this crucial mission and make sure it could continue on into the future. We were all in this together.

One of the most wonderful parts of the evening was the contingent of marvelous people there who were raising puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Puppy raisers receive a six-week-old puppy from the program and then raise the tyke up, teaching them household manners, socializing them to be around people and as many different situations in the world as they can.

Banner, the youngest attendee of Peak Potential 2012!

Banner, the youngest attendee of Peak Potential 2012!

At 18 months old, the young dogs go back to Guiding Eyes for the Blind to undergo a six-month Guide Dog training program. These puppy raisers then go to their dog’s “graduation,” sending them off into the world to become a Guide for a someone suffering from vision loss. After raising these dogs, many go back and take another puppy and start the process all over again.

Many of these remarkable puppy raisers had brought their young dogs with them to the dinner. The youngest I saw was an adorable nine-week old German shepherd named Banner–I’m sure I’m not the only one who wanted to scoop him up and take him home.

Having so many of these dogs there helped to demonstrate in a very physical way organization’s mission. One of the most touching moments for me was when Chrissy Vetrano, Quinn’s trainer at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, talked to the audience about how Quinn had been the first dog that she had trained, and told the story of how difficult it was to give him up, worrying about whether he and Randy would be the right fit, whether he would be happy, etc.

At a crucial moment in their final walk, Quinn looked up at Chrissy with a look that clearly said, “Mom, I got this.” It was at that moment Chrissy knew she was doing the right thing. When she brought Quinn to give to Randy, Quinn bounded into the room to greet Randy and instantly she could tell from seeing them together that they would do great thing–more than either could have done on his own. And so they have.

Together Quinn and Randy have accomplished so much and have made a difference to so many who have heard their story. Guiding Eyes for the Blind has provided many Guide Dogs who have opened up their owners’ worlds to a greater degree of freedom and independence.

The contingent in attendance from Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

The contingent in attendance from Guiding Eyes for the Blind.

Chrissy’s moving presentation reinforced how important this mission was. Guiding Eyes and the New Hampshire Association for the Blind both help form an essential community of support and resources for people with vision loss. Together, all of us in attendance celebrated and rallied around this important cause. I know I for one have come away with a new enthusiasm for this mission and for this community of people.

We at 2020 Vision Quest depend on the support of our community to accomplish our mission–not only through donations, but through actions, and emotional support. I am heartened and happy at how generous, caring, and supportive this community is. On Saturday night, Randy and Tracy felt the benefit of this community of support in their own especially poignant way.

We look forward to what this year has to bring for 2020 Vision Quest. Randy plans to finish hiking the summer 48 in 2013, and to reach many many more students with his message of “Achieving a Vision Beyond Your Sight.” What else the future brings, only time will tell–but we have an amazing community of people who are all coming along for the ride.


14 Nov 11

By Beth Foote

When Randy first spoke to me back in August about working on the 2020 Vision Quest website, I must admit that I didn’t know a whole lot about the organization. I wish I could say that I had a love of hiking or that the cause of blindness was near and dear to my heart, but neither was especially true at the time.

What I did have was a deep respect and admiration for Randy, who had been my friend for almost ten years. Ever since I had known him, I was inspired by his unwillingness to let blindness keep him from living a fulfilling life. So I was flattered and honored that he would approach me to be involved in his charitable efforts. I had been looking for new challenges outside of the workplace where I could use my writing and editing experience, and this opportunity seemed a perfect fit. I accepted gladly.

Randy tells the crowd about the work Team 2020 has done in 2011.

Randy tells the crowd about the work Team 2020 has done in 2011.

But it was Saturday, November 12 that I finally felt that I was a full member of Team 2020. That night, I attended 2020 Vision Quest’s annual “Peak Potential” fundraising dinner. The general feeling of the evening was lighthearted and jovial, a fun get-together of many good friends and acquaintances for a good cause. There was a wide collection of auction items generously donated by vendors in the area which were eagerly bid upon by the attendees. For me, though, the highlight of the evening was Randy’s short presentation about the work they had done and why it was important. It crystallized a lot of what I have been learning over the last few months and I came away with a renewed enthusiasm for the project.

The purpose of 2020 Vision Quest is multi-faceted. Yes, at its core it revolves around a blind man hiking all 48 4,000+-foot peaks in New Hampshire by 2020. Randy shared with us that he and the 2020VQ team hiked 17 peaks in 2011, and unveiled his plan to hike another 17 mountains in 2012.

However, the hiking is really a catalyst to promote the goal of outreach and increasing awareness for the cause of blindness. Randy told us that right now in the United States there are 4.4 million people suffering from blindness or serious vision impairment. By 2020, it’s projected that there will be 30 to 32 million. As the Baby Boom generation ages and suffers macular degeneration and related ailments, they will be in need of more and more services for the blind. Turning people’s awareness to the cause now is crucial.

I can think of no one more suited to speak to anyone who will listen–children and adults alike–about not letting your limitations get in the way of achieving your goals than Randy Pierce. He serves as a stunning example of someone who lives this philosophy every day of his life. Through his speaking engagements, Randy has presented to 10,000 students since embarking on this quest. He plans to keep adding to the list–he asked, why not shoot for 48,000 students?

Randy cited an inspiring quote last night that drives his approach to life:

“People will forget what you say and what you do, but they will never forget how you made them feel.”
-Maya Angelou

A full house listens watches Randy's presentation.

A full house listens to Randy's presentation.

I hope that as the children who hear Randy’s words grow up, they will remember how it made them feel to realize that their dreams didn’t seem so impossible after all. I hope they will carry that feeling with them as they run into difficulties in their lives that seem insurmountable–that they will say, “I know I can do this–I just need to figure out how.”

As Randy described on Saturday, 2020 Vision Quest needs your help. Donations, of course, are always appreciated, but beyond financial support, Randy spoke of the importance of community in making this charity successful. Talk about us–tell your friends and coworkers, send us notes of your support, read our blog, or follow us on Facebook and other social media. Talk to your child’s school principal or your workplace about engaging Randy to speak, which he will do at no cost. Spread awareness in any way you can.

That is the main message that I took away from the Peak Potential dinner: a strong community is essential to our success. And the more success we have in our goals, the more benefit there will be to a much larger community.

I’m proud to say that now, even though I knew little about the organization coming in, I feel a part of this community. This is a feeling I know I will remember long after I have forgotten what was said or what I did on Saturday. I hope you will join our community with your support for this important cause and share in this feeling, too. I’m glad I did!

Quinn, Randy, and Tracy get down on the dance floor!

Quinn, Randy, and Tracy get down on the dance floor!


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